Thu, Jan 19, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Face transplant patient ventures out

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , TUCSON, ARIZONA

The French woman who received the world's first partial face transplant walked along a street in Lyon, France, and visited a bar without incident on Sunday, her doctors said in an interview here on Tuesday.

She was accompanied by a psychiatrist on her outing.

No one recognized anything unusual during this venture or an earlier one in Amiens, though the woman, who for the time being cannot use makeup, bears long thin scars where her new face was attached with several hundred stitches. The doctors showed pictures of the woman as they spoke in an interview the day before they were scheduled to present her case for the first time at a scientific meeting.

The trip to downtown Lyon was part of a process the doctors have organized to help the woman, identified as Isabelle Dinoire, 38, prepare to re-enter society as the world's first person to wear a transplanted face.

One goal is to help Dinoire anticipate and react to what friends and other people might say about her new appearance and to adjust to eventual exposure to hordes of photographers and journalists, said Bernard Devauchelle, the surgeon who performed the transplant operation in Amiens with Jean-Michel Dubernard, also a leader of the transplant team, assisting.

Two days after the operation Dinoire was transferred to the Edouard Herriot Hospital in Lyon where Dubernard and a team of immunologists could monitor her course. Dubernard led the team that performed the first hand-arm transplant in Lyon.

Before Sunday's visit, Dinoire had walked around the hospital, often wearing a mask until she took it off two weeks ago. On a brief visit to Amiens last week, Dinoire stopped to shop, and she was very pleased no one recognized her or saw anything unusual, Devauchelle said.

"If she wasn't the first face transplant patient, she would be at home now," Devauchelle said. He added, "there is no medical reason to keep her in the hospital now except to prepare her for the publicity and psychological reaction."

But Dinoire is not ready to live alone at home, where journalists await her, the doctors said.

As the doctors showed slides of Dinoire's disfigured face before the transplant, Benoit Lengele, a Belgian specialist in facial injuries who was part of the transplant team, said that she told them that when she looked in the mirror, her face resembled that of a dead person.

To monitor Dinoire's progress in gaining new sensation in the transplanted face, the doctors said they were obtaining MRI scans to pick up subtle changes in brain activity as they prick her skin with a pin or touch it with a wad of cotton. An MRI test on Sunday showed that Dinoire was beginning to gain some sensitivity in her new upper lip.

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